The event with Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam, titled “Our Responsibilities at This Time”, was due to take place today, but was cancelled by the University after an outcry from Jewish students, who said that the society failed to “recognise the concerns with inviting Roger Hallam, founder of XR [Extinction Rebellion], who has a history of Holocaust minimisation and trivialisation.”
Mr Hallam made the inflammatory comment in an interview to the German newspaper, Die Zeit. He told the paper, “the extremity of a trauma can create a paralysis in actually learning the lessons from it. The fact of the matter is, millions of people have been killed in vicious circumstances on a regular basis throughout history, ” adding: “They went to the Congo in the late 19th century and decimated it,” before adding that contextually, the Holocaust was “almost a normal event … just another f***ery in human history.”
Mr Hallam claimed that his comments, which appeared to minimise and downplay the Nazis’ systematic murder of six millions Jews, were taken out of context: “I want to fully acknowledge the unimaginable suffering caused by the Nazi Holocaust that led to all of Europe saying ‘never again’. But it is happening again, on a far greater scale and in plain sight. The ‘global north’ is pumping lethal levels of CO2 into the atmosphere and simultaneously erecting ever greater barriers to immigration, turning whole regions of the world into death zones. That is the grim reality. We are allowing our governments to willingly, and in full knowledge of the science, engage in genocide of our young people and those in the ‘global south’ by refusing to take emergency action to reduce carbon emissions.”
Yesterday, Climate Reality Warwick, which organised the event, said: “We have made the decision as a society to cancel the talk tomorrow. When we were approached about the guest speaker, we were not aware who he was until after confirming the event, and of course this is a mistake on our part for not checking. As a society we strongly condemn some of Roger’s statements in the past, especially regarding the Holocaust, and we don’t feel that he represents us as a society. We apologise for any potential harm caused.”
The University of Warwick has a history of incidents in relation to Jewish students and antisemitism. Last year, academic staff passed a motion challenging the International Definition of Antisemitism, which the University had reluctantly adopted. Previously, dubious disciplinary charges against a Jewish student who complained about antisemitism were dropped by the University; the University’s official Twitter account ‘liked’ a tweet endorsing inflammatory comments by the disgraced academic David Miller, with the University subsequently deleting the ‘like’ and blaming “unauthorised access” to the account; and a controversial Warwick lecturer reportedly claimed that the Definition is part of a Conservative plot to “legitimate racist speech and de-legitimate anti-racist and anti-colonial research, teaching and activism”.
In the past, other concerns have been raised over the University’s failure to address a scandal over a group chat which gained national attention, in which antisemitic, misogynistic, abusive and threatening messages, including rape threats, were uncovered.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].